Friday, March 13, 2009

Three Fried Men and Orhan Veli buy old clothes

This is a used sweater that Matt Fuller bought me yesterday at a Jewish resale shop in Little Ethiopia here in Los Angeles. It is chilly in L.A. this week, and I foolishly traveled from St. Louis with almost no warm clothing.

We both immediately recognized an irony, when Matt called me from the resale shop - he was buying me old clothes the day after we worked on a song called "I Buy Old Clothes".

The song is the setting of an Orhan Veli poem of the same name, as translated by Murat Nemet-Nejat. Orhan Veli was one of the fathers of modern Turkish poetry. Along with his friends Melih Cevdet and Oktay Rifat, he innovated a startlingly simple and offhanded style that liberated poetry from the stuffy, stagnant formalism of Ottoman conventions.

Their literary movement was called Garip, a Turkish word that means both "strange" and "lonesome". I think just about any artist would have to smile in recognition at that concept; we are all a little strange and lonesome.

I set the poem to a melody working from a guitar tape Matt had sent me from Los Angeles. In this case, it was a guitar and accordion tape, and my vocal melody follows his accordion line pretty closely.

We worked on the recording years ago with our third fried man, Lij, recording with Meghan Gohil at Hollywood Recording Studio, his house in a scrappy Hollywood neighborhood dominated by Armenians. We are aware of the irony of scoring Turkish poetry in a neighborhood full of Armenians.

On Wednesday night, after I made The St. Louis American deadline by remote, Matt and I went over to Meghan's studio and worked on "I Buy Old Clothes". It needed a baseline, but in working up a bassline Matt also imagined a better drum part than he had previously recorded, so he did a new drum part too.

These takes are not final, but this rough mix gives a sense of the song and where we are headed with it.

Free mp3

"I Buy Old Clothes"
(Matt Fuller, Chris King,
Murat Nemet-Nejat,
Orhan Veli)
Three Fried Men

Recorded by Meghan Gohil
Hollywood Recording Studio

We are roughly this far along in recording six settings of Orhan Veli songs, which we should release as an e.p. when they are finished - whenever that will be.

A large selection of Murat's translations of Orhan Veli is available online. These translations were published in a nice little volume by Hanging Loose Press that remains in print.

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